I’ll be honest, I knew I was going to like Dark Roots of Earth before I even started it. It had become apparent, except to those who live under sound proofed rocks, that things are indeed changing within the metal world; once great bands that held high esteem in many a vinyl/cassette/cd/iTunes libraries quickly dropped out of circulation. In their place, the once reffered to “sloppy seconds” of the Bay area and international thrash scene have taken hold. It seems that for one reason or another, the aforementioned b-listers are no longer content with playing second fiddle. Nix that, they don’t even want to play the stupid violin anymore.
If there’s one album this year that’s had worthy buzz surround it, it’s been Dark Roots of Earth. It’s not undeserved one bit, their last album Formation of Damnation was a huge hit, it even landed them their highest chart position ‘til now. It’s strange, for a band once thought to be the out-and-out b-listers of the scene, Testament may yet get the recognition that they’ve long deserved. Anyone in the metal community can tell you that there’s steam gathering behind Testament, and the reason for it may not be clear to some, yet apparent to others; year after year, album after album Testament have put great records. And while some of the bigger “M” lettered bands have strayed, dabbled in niche genres, and to the dismay of others, even gotten soft, Testament has proved an unmoving and unrelenting force when it comes to all things metal. Their steadfast nature, it shows, rings true to many.
However, not all is perfect; while The Formation of Damnation started off with a bang, Dark Roots of Earth struggled for take off like a third world 747. It’s not to say that “Rise Up” is a bad song, but it’s clear even upon hearing it that it’s the easily weakest track on the album; nothing about it demands your attention and thankfully the track is over before you can say “Urotsukidoji”. Then, just when your guard is down, Dark Roots of Earth pulls down your pants and smacks you in the ass; straight on from “Native Blood” through onto “A Day in the Death”. Mid way through the album you’re treated with a break reminiscent of The Ritual with “Cold Embrace” and then it’s back to the races, where “Throne of Thornes” melts whatever is left of your poor face. I mean, just listen to that damned solo!
No matter how splendid the album is, the real stars of this album are Peterson and Skolnick; their wall-to-wall instrumentalism, their catchy riffs, their absolute dedication to making sure that this album sounded fresh and unique while standing next to The Ritual, The Gathering, and Souls of Black really is worthy of nothing. This by no means is meant to take away from the performances of others; Chuck sounds more menacing than ever, Greg nails every single thump with his bass, and the ‘atomic clock’ Gene Hoglan commits percussional genocide. But the guitars on this album really help set The Dark Roots of Earth as a modern metal work of art, putting decades of influences into one album. One just simply has to listen to “Man Kills Mankind” to have a quick lesson in 30 years of metal; the modern thrash attack, the classical dual harmony intro, the guttural vocal attacks, and the Leatherwolf style “question and answer” style riff. It’s all their for the listening.
Not only have Testament given one of the year’s best album but they have proven that a band’s best work is never behind them. After you’re done blasting this album so many times that it makes you deaf, get a metal rod, bite down on it and feel the vibrations.